Commentary: Church’s failure to address abuse shocking, painful

The indifference of Church leaders, failure to reach out to the victims, the lack of transparency and lack of accountability is painful

During an address at Dublin Castle on August 18, 2018, Pope Francis said, “The failure of ecclesiastical authorities — bishops, religious superiors, priests and others — adequately to address these appalling crimes has rightly given rise to outrage and remains a source of pain and shame for the Catholic community. I myself share those sentiments.”

Cardinal Oswald Gracias, one of the organizers of the Bishops’ Meeting held in Vatican City on ‘The Protection of Minors in the Church”, in February 2019, made a presentation on February 22 to the bishops on ‘Accountability in a Collegial and Synodal Church’ in which he stated,

“…the entire Church must take an honest look, undertake rigorous discernment, and then act decisively to prevent abuse from occurring in the future and to do whatever possible to foster healing for victims…. We need to acknowledge first of all the fact of sexual abuse, we need to acknowledge the inadequacy of preventive measures, we need to ask pardon for this. We need to commit ourselves resolutely to take steps that this will never happen in the Church again, that we have a Church that is free from the sexual abuse of minors. … It should never be, because we in leadership roles did not do enough.”

Despite the above powerful statements by the highest authorities of the Catholic Church, it is deeply distressing that their sincerity was not manifested in the Church’s handling of the abuse case of the minor that was ongoing at that time in the Indian Courts and reached only at the end of 2021 with the priest being sentenced to life imprisonment for his crime. Even more shocking is the fact that the case being in Mumbai, under the jurisdiction of Cardinal Oswald Gracias himself who was approached by the boy’s parents on the day of the abuse, did not respond immediately by reporting it to the police, instead he delegated follow-up of the case as he was leaving for Rome, to a fellow bishop who also did not act immediately.

The fact that the vulnerable, traumatized minor was left denied of any form of consolation or assistance from leaders of the Church (though they claim otherwise), is shocking and painful, leaders, who are meant to transmit the healing touch of Christ to the wounded and suffering. Instead, the Church authorities are known to have extended support to the accused, while the abused minor was subjected to a grueling interview, all alone, as if he were the one guilty of a crime.

It is of great concern how the Church in India addresses complaints of abuse against clergy especially in the light of the several cases of abuse of minors and vulnerable adults surfacing across the country in the secular and religious media. The extent of abuse against religious women was highlighted in a study conducted by the western region CRI [Catholic Religious of India] and published in a book, “It’s High Time”. The gravity of the need for authorities of congregations and leaders of the Church to acknowledge and address this more transparently and with greater responsibility was underscored during the 16 days of activism against violence by ‘Voices of Faith’ on their YouTube channel, in the series of testimonies by religious sisters speaking of the painful experiences and abuse they face in their congregations and by the clergy.

The indifference of the Church leadership in naming the crime, failing to reach out to the victims the lack of transparency, apparent irresponsibility, and lack of accountability is painful. Lack of action in the cases is shockingly excused – Pontius Pilate style, by casually stating that the case is sub-judice and so they cannot intervene; this while openly shielding the abusers, allowing them to retain their position and titles, and shrouding the abuse in a veil of secrecy. The trauma of the survivor is minimized and ignored.

Read the full article on Matters India

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